• BWiC Profile Featuring Jackie Falla, Director of Client Services, Elaine Construction

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    Very often we choose a path with a very specific destination, but end up in a place we least expected.

    Jackie is fortunate to have been blessed with a father of many amazing talents that include law (he is a lawyer), fine finish carpentry, architecture and home renovating. When her studies at BU in political science did not lead her directly to law school, it was really no surprise. In fact, although she wanted to become a lawyer she had no plans to actually practice law, and that is where her path took a fortuitous turn.

    Jackie grew up in Harwichport, MA with an older and younger sister. Her mother worked as a Title Examiner and her father, a practicing lawyer, also had a passion for flipping houses way before the likes of the Property Brothers. Her grandfather was a builder who constructed homes and churches but passed when Jackie was only three years old. She remembers as a young girl taking Sunday drives with her parents searching for their next home to purchase and renovate. Jackie reveals they lived in the homes as they were being remodeled,  at one point actually living in three different locations on the same street in her home town.

    With the career of becoming a lawyer off the boards, she decided to continue the family tradition of flipping houses and signed on take a few courses in Interior Design at the New England School of Art & Design. It was while waiting tables she was introduced through a colleague to Tappe’ Associates, a well renowned architectural firm based in Boston and was hired as the receptionist reporting directly to the owner Tony Tappe’. She was almost fired immediately. She realized if she was to keep her job she would need to step up her game by watching and learning. Tony was a master at building relationships and inspired Jackie to follow his lead through taking interest in current news, educational articles and books and reaching out to people in the most personal way. Later in her career, Jackie would appreciate that Tony was quite progressive in his approach to building relationships by never asking for favors but always looking for ways to help his clients solve their own challenges first.  

    Through hard work Jackie became a valued employee and moved into more trusted roles over her 11 year tenure, eventually becoming Director of Marketing & Communications. Early on as Marketing Coordinator she enjoyed the increase in responsibilities and the substance of the work, but also understood that although she had great business intuition, she needed to broaden her education if she was to keep moving her career path forward. Leveraging her life experiences she earned her half MBA at Harvard, projecting her to Director Level and ultimately her next professional challenge.

    That challenge turned out to be Director of Business Development at Shawmut Design & Construction where she successfully managed the growth of Academic, Historical and Health markets in their newly established Rhode Island office. Jackie says the hours were typically grueling, but she was highly self-motivated. She says Shawmut provided an extremely supportive environment for learning, and although employees gave a lot, they received enormous value in return. Specifically for Jackie she had a deep fascination for the technical side of construction. This is where she truly fell in love with the industry as she says she was “always surprised and delighted” with the opportunities to continually learn. She says she credits Shawmut for many of those opportunities and owes them a great debt of gratitude.

    In 2010 the recession hit and all BD employees but for Jackie were laid-off. Good news she held her position, but bad news she was now in charge of all New England. The pressure increased to perform during a time of little movement and she recognized what she valued in her work was no longer in alignment with her life goals.

    In 2011 she met Lisa Wexler, President & CEO of Elaine Construction through the WELL mentoring group that Jackie supported. Lisa was well known as a respected leader, knowledgeable in all aspects of construction and generous, not only through her philanthropic work, but personally as well.  All that Lisa represented has been well integrated in all that her company offers. Jackie was invited to join Elaine’s leadership team as Director of Client Services where she is responsible for proposals, all technical writing, (which means she has to extract all that information from field and operations staff), all creative writing and specialty messaging and, most importantly, building and maintaining client relations. Flash back to Tony Tappe. Jackie continues his legacy through listening to what matters to her clients by asking good questions and identifying common grounds. She imparts that “building relationships is not just about work but about the whole person so that they feel heard and seen.”

    Her successful career has not been with-out challenges, and although her particular role is not male centric the industry always has been. She learned early in client management to always be very well prepared with her trail of information and correct details of each case. She stood her ground in resisting sales tactics and avoided “I told you so’s”.  She leveraged her excellent track record to speak for herself when it came time for reviews and pay raises, and although she didn’t always get what she wanted, she always asked. When gender inequities arose, she focused on her deliverables and keeping a tight rein on emotions.

    Jackie has also stayed very involved in industry groups that include: WELL, IFMA, SCUP and AGC MA BWiC in various capacities. It’s critical to get out and get engaged, building relationships does not happen through emails.

    Through-out her career she has continued to renovate homes, sometimes on her own and sometimes with her family. She says it’s a natural fit for conversation and learning opportunities with her colleagues and clients. She is currently working on her book My Life in Sawdust: How to make a million dollars in flips, a story on the design that humorously chronicles the successes and mistakes she has experienced. Her current Blog, Quest for the Nest, gives true insight into the passion of Jackie and her talents and desires to achieve her critical path. Be sure to check it out, you won’t be disappointed.

    Thank you Jackie for sharing your experiences and contributing to our mission of Building Women in Construction!

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